Thumb Sucking - What's Normal For My Child?

Thumb Sucking - What's Normal For My Child?

Thumb sucking is a perfectly normal behavior for young children. However, did you know that as a child ages, thumb sucking can cause several different oral development issues? Most children stop thumb sucking on their own, but after a certain age, it will be necessary for parents to intervene. Let’s cover what is normal about thumb sucking and what you should watch for as your child gets older. 

Normal Thumb Sucking Behavior

As we mentioned, it is perfectly normal for children to suck their thumb. Most begin around age two, and it is a natural way for them to explore their world and self-soothe. Some children may even increase the thumb sucking habit during times of stress or before bed. Thumb sucking will cause no issues at this young age as children still have their baby teeth. If you see them exhibiting this behavior from ages two to four, there is nothing to worry about.

Pay Close Attention Around Ages 4 To 5

The negative consequences of thumb sucking begin around age four or five. This doesn’t have anything to do with their exact age, but rather when they start to develop their adult teeth. At this point, you’ll want to monitor thumb sucking habits if your child hasn’t stopped on their own. Left untreated, thumb sucking while their adult teeth are develop can cause bite and palate problems as well as speech issues.

The intensity of the habit makes a difference. Children who suck hard on their thumbs are more likely to experience developmental issues than those who simply hold the thumb in their mouth. Frequency is important too. Those that only suck their thumb occasionally are at less risk than those who do it with regularity.  

How To Help Your Child Stop Thumb Sucking

It is important to remember that stopping this behavior is a process. Once you decide you need to intervene, don’t try to change things overnight. Develop a solid plan with rewards along the way. Always choose positive reinforcement over negative. Children who are shamed due to their thumb sucking habit may resort to the very habit they are trying to stop due to anxiety and stress. The ADA recommends placing a bandage on your child’s thumb to remind them of the bad habit if the normal steps aren’t as successful. 

Talk To Your Dentist About Thumb Sucking

If you determine thumb sucking to be an issue with your child once their adult teeth start to develop, make sure to work closely with your dentist. They can monitor whether developmental issues arise and help paint a picture of how severe things are. They will also talk with your child to reinforce that thumb sucking is nothing to be ashamed of, but it will be harmful in the long run. Grace & Leedy Family Dentistry is well-versed in working with children who have a thumb sucking habit. We’ll help you tackle this important issue now so your child can look forward to healthy teeth all their life. Contact us today for a consultation and check up with our knowledgeable staff.

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